Johannesburg, Thursday, 21st February 2019 – The 2019 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament will feature three top clubs from Europe who have excelled in the Under-17 age group in the past and are renowned for the development of incredible talent for the world game.
The 12-team competition will once again take place at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto from 25th to 30th March as the best of local and international talent goes on display.
Defending champions Club Brugge from Belgium return to have another shot at the prestigious title having beaten Dutch side ADO Den Haag in the 2018 final.
It will be the fourth year in a row that the Belgians have competed on South African soil, having also finished eleventh in 2016 and seventh in 2017.
The senior team of Club Brugge, fed by their excellent academy, were crowned Belgian champions last season, their 15th league title in the club’s illustrious 127-year history.
Club Brugge have a strong history of African players, including Nigerians Daniel Amokachi and Joseph Akpala, and the former South African international Elrio van Heerden.
The current side is coached by Ivan Lenko, a former Croatian international, and features Zimbabwe international Marvelous Nakamba.
“We are really looking forward to coming back to South Africa and one thing is sure, the boys will experience and learn a lot during the tournament week” said Coach Maarten Martens.
“On the other hand we will be out there to defend our title from last year, which will be a huge challenge, but we will be prepared!” concluded Martens.
Also returning this year are Spanish LaLiga club Espanyol, who hail from the city of Barcelona, having made their debut in 2018.
Espanyol finished eighth last year, but having had a taste of what to expect from the highly-competitive Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament, will want to improve on that showing.
The club is certainly bristling with young talent and have a range of academies around the world having exported the Espanyol philosophy on how to play the game.
The club have had a host of top names play for them in the past, including current Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, who spent 12 seasons with the team as a player and a further three as their coach.
The senior side is currently coached by Rubi, who took charge at the start of this season.
“For us it is a privilege to enjoy such an amazing experience. Being able to play with teams from other cultures and spend a few days together in another country makes it something we will never forget,” says Espanyol Under-17 coach Pol García.
Goalkeeper Iker Venteo believes the mix of experiences on and off the pitch will be of huge benefit to the players.
“It is an honour to attend this incredible tournament, to experience the culture and landscape of the country. We will give our best to try to win it. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that we are really looking forward to.”
A third side will also play for a second successive year at the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament as Italian side Reggio Audace.
The side is competing under a new name though after switching from AC Reggiana 1919, but will provide plenty of Italian swagger and the excellent technical skills that players from that country are renowned for.
The side finished 11th in South Africa last year, but like Espanyol would have learnt a lot from their first experience and just what is required to be successful in the highly competitive tournament.
“We are honoured to take part for a second consecutive year in this important tournament which for us represents a top-level sporting event and takes on even greater significance considering the value that such experiences can transmit to players,” says Alberto Biagini, who is responsible for the youth teams at Reggio Audace.
“For our club and the city of Reggio Emilia, it will be of great importance to repeat the fantastic experience that our athletes already took part in last year. Alongside the football matches that will have us facing top clubs from all over the world, the cultural relevance of the programme makes the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament a 360-degree experience” concluded Biagini.
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